Thinking Anglicans

Equal civil marriage: further developments

In late July, we reported that Prime Minister criticises Church on same-sex relationships, and that this had prompted Anglican Mainstream to write a response. Today, Anglican Mainstream has published the response it received from David Cameron and you can see the correspondence at The Prime Minister writes to Anglican Mainstream.

The government ministers responsible for equalities changed in the recent reshuffle, and the new Secretary of State with responsibility for this (replacing Teresa May) is Maria Miller. She recently wrote this article: The state shouldn’t stop people marrying unless there is a good reason. Being gay is not one of them and recorded this video for Out4Marriage.

Two earlier articles on the topic that appeared on Law and Religion UK in June are:

The Campaign for Marriage has published a summary of the legal opinion provided by Aidan O’Neill (PDF) on a variety of scenarios that could arise if the legislation is enacted. This is well worth reading.

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Randal Oulton
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Randal Oulton

re : Anglican Mainstream has published the response it received from David Cameron In their 25th July 2012 letter to Cameron, “Mainstream” writes: “When we are baptised, we make a commitment …” Well, they aren’t as evangelical as they think; no true evangelical would think that an infant being christened was able to make any kind of commitment for him or herself, other than promise their parents that the next dirty nappy will be along soon :} Anyway, it was predetermined they weren’t going to be happy with any answer other than a doctrinal one, and predetermined that they knew… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

As far as I am aware, in the Netherlands, Canada etc, churches are legally exempt from having to marry same-sex couples, so surely it should be possible to write such an exemption into UK law too, as faith groups are already exempt fom some equalities laws which apply in other settings? Even in the Church of England, an established church, blatant sexual discrimination goes on which would be unthinkable in secular settings, but it has not been compelled to stop. However, if this is really a source of anxiety, disestablishment might set church leaders’ minds at rest.

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

I puzzled over the statement that a UK Parliament statute could be challenged under another statute (a marriage equality law under the Equality Act). This makes no sense. Firstly, the current Equality Act already exempts religious bodies from equality legislation so the issue doesn’t arise. Secondly, the marriage law can amend the Equality Act in any case and will probably do so in any case to allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate on marriage equality. I think both Acts of Parliament will be quite explicit on there being no application of equality law in the area of same sex marriage… Read more »

Peter+
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Peter+

Savi & Craig, the C of E’s response to the Consultation Marriage document outlines the C of E’s legal concerns about this. I recommend that you have a read of it – should be easy to Google. It’s worth noting that matrimony law in the UK is set up quite differently to the continent, and particularly with regards to the C of E, so the lack of legal issues in other countries isn’t a guide to what might happen in England & the rest of the UK. Craig, if the UK were not subject to European equality law your points… Read more »

kennedy fraser
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kennedy fraser

Peter+ wrote It’s worth noting that matrimony law in the UK is set up quite differently to the continent..

It is worth noting that matrimony law in England is set up quite differently to the rest of the UK…

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

“There are signs that the politicians on both sides of the debate are starting to take those concerns seriously.” There have been some well run and very well attended consultation events here in Wales and I got the impression from the middle rank officials and at least one senior politician that there has been a very deep and sincere concern from the off about how people from the religions might react. As to the legal matters. I raised several of the issues that concerned me at the preliminary session and this was said in reply: “We are not going to… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

Peter, I am aware of the official C of E response, and recognise that it might indeed be argued, if and when same-sex marriage is legally recognised, that it would be unwarranted interference in religious freedom to prohibit faith communities from celebrating such marraiges if they so wish. However, this would not mean that faith communities will be compelled to celebrate these. Since laws have successfully been worded to permit discrimination within faith-related settings in the UK, and exemption from having to celebrate same-sex marriage by faith groups in countries where this is legally recognised, I cannot see why it… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

England and WALES, please kennedy.

Kennedy
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Kennedy

England and WALES, please kennedy.

My apologies, I understood that religious marriage provisions in England were derived from the CofE and so I thought that Wales perhaps had different arrangements.

Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

Peter +: 1) The fears expressed by the C of E’s official response (along lines of “the courts will force unwilling vicars to conduct gay marriages”) are NOT well-founded. For an explanation which I sent to the Govt Equalities Office along with Scot Peterson, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Judith Maltby and others, see here: http://politicsinspires.org/2012/06/same-sex-civil-marriage-and-the-established-religious-lobby-providing-the-government-with-good-information/ and here https://dl.dropbox.com/u/68797147/Response%20to%20CofE%20%2818-06-2012%29.pdf. 2) Scottish marriage law has never been the same as English. In the view of many (including, I think, Aidan O’Neill) it is more logical. Under Scots marriage law it will be relatively easy to do what the Scottish Government’s bill proposes: namely open… Read more »

David Shepherd
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Iain: From your link: ‘Civil marriages performed under the Marriage Act, 1949 cannot include religious elements, including prayers, readings from religious texts or religious songs.’ This language confounds the ceremony with the institution of marriage. The church has fought to main the ceremonial distinctions, but legally a marriage by civil ceremony entails the same rights and liberties as marriage by religious ceremony. It’s this false dichotomy with which the CofE takes issue. British citizenship is analogous. By birth and immediate descent, it is automatically granted. In contrast, by naturalisation, citizenship is granted on application and remains at the discretion of… Read more »

David Lamming
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David Lamming

David Shepherd is right to point out the distinction, seemingly misunderstood or ignored by the Government in its ‘Equal Civil Marriage’ consultation paper, between the institution of marriage and the ceremony (wedding) by which two people become married. As Anglican Mainstream point out, David Cameron repeats the false distinction between civil and religious marriage in his recent reply to Dr Giddings in which he wrote: “… the Government recognizes the special position of religious marriages in our society and the consultation proposes that no changes are made to how religious organizations define and solemnize religious marriage.” But in law there… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

David L Even now, C of E clergy are not compelled to marry all who can be lawfully married. To quote the C of E website, ‘The Church of England agreed in 2002 that divorced people could remarry in church under certain circumstances. However, because the Church views marriage to be lifelong, there is no automatic right to do so and it is left to the discretion of the Priest.’ Indeed even the heir to the throne did not have a church wedding in 2005. Carefully worded laws can, and do, provide all manner of exemptions from ordinary equality legislation.… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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I found this item, posted on the Fulcrum web-site, most interesting. For the writer, a west London Rector and ‘Deliverance ministry’ officer in his part of the London diocese, to be in favour of the Blessing of monogamous Same-Sex Partnerships, must surely be an important indicator of his pro-gay convictions. He is, however, not in favour of Same-Sex Marriage – on the grounds that he discusses in this link: http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/?741 Whatever one thinks of the writer’s arguments, he is distinctly in favour of Blessing Same-Sex Partnerships – something which the church ought to have considered, ahead of the move for… Read more »

Tobias Haller
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Tobias Haller

While it is true that there is no legal difference, under English law, between a civil and a religious marriage, there is a distinct religious difference, and churches are free, for their own purposes, not to recognized as married those whom the state recognizes as married. For example, the Roman Catholic church can refuse the sacraments to a divorced person with a living spouse who undertakes a civil marriage. (Some Anglicans used to hold this position — and some perhaps still do.) This may seem like a distinction without a difference, but it does indicate that the churches have a… Read more »

David Shepherd
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Savi: The CofE exemption regarding re-marriage of divorcees does not infringe upon the rights protected under the Equality Act, whereas any sexual orientation exemption would. Divorced status is not a protected characteristic under UK law. Ron: I read your link to the Fulcrum article. ‘God is love and those who live in love live in God, and He in them’ (1 John 4:16) is quoted by the author as the basis for endorsing a mutual loyal homosexual relationship. The author goes as far as to indicate that the love mentioned here is sacrificial agape. What undergirds this love, of course,… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

It really does seem as if this is more complicated than it needs to be. Here in the States there’s only one sort of marriage, but the couple may choose who officiates – clergyman, judge, or whatever. A priest acts as an officer of the State when presiding over a wedding, and cannot act without the State-issued marriage license. No member of the clergy, as far as I know, is required to marry a given couple. Actually, I suppose that whether or not there’s only one sort if marriage, either here or in the UK, depends on your viewpoint. In… Read more »

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

While perusing the web recently I came across this link: http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/marriage,-family-and-sexuality-issues/same-sex-marriage.aspx containing the paragraph of Rowan Williams’ speech to the WCC with an oblique reference to same sex marriage. I had been meaning to read it again so was glad to come across it. Curious to state it appears to me to be an argument in favour of same sex marriage. If, after all, Rowan Williams is calling for ‘strategic patience’ then surely after one has been patient for long enough (as well, presumably, strategic enough) one gets there in the end (it’s a long journey that says you NEVER… Read more »